Marco Grimaldi’s dream was to become a photographer.
A Brooklyn resident for about seven years, he’d started a photography business with two friends that took creative headshots for artists, actors and models.
“After seeing his work, I realized it’s not just a picture of someone’s head, it’s fashion, it’s art,” said Grimaldi’s mom, Susan Rosano. “... It’s a way to get someone’s attention.”
In February 2020 — as COVID-19 was spreading in the U.S., but before it upended daily life — Grimaldi, 31, was sure he had contracted the disease, though Rosano said there were no tests available to confirm it. As time went on he felt fine, until about a month later when he noticed red spots on his feet and hands.
“It turned out he had bone-marrow failure. So what that does is it ruins your immune system, it completely destroys it really, and you can get that from a virus,” said Rosano, of Guilford, Vt.
His doctor believed COVID-19 most likely caused his bone-marrow failure, she said.
Grimaldi was put on a bone-marrow transplant list, and though 10 matches were found in New York City alone, his mother said, no one was donating out of fear of contracting the virus.
Doctors ended up finding a match for him in Europe by June 30, and had it shipped overnight, but it was too late. Grimaldi died July 2.
“Marco’s immune system was going down, down, down, and all these infections were happening,” Rosano said. “... His bone marrow had gotten to nothing, and his heart had an infection.”
In his honor, Rosano submitted his photography to the Latchis Art Gallery in Brattleboro. The show, which will be at the Main Street space through the end of the month, is the first to display Grimaldi’s work.
“The whole thing is very precious, and it’s a beautiful memory of my creative son,” she said.
Grimaldi grew up in Cromwell, Conn., and first dabbled in photography as a freshman in high school. He soon became passionate about it, Rosano said, and attended the Hartford Academy of the Arts his final year of high school.
He continued studying photography at Burlington College in Vermont before moving to Brooklyn to pursue a career.
In addition to running his photography business, Grimaldi worked full-time as a New York City private investigator. Because of this steady income, he often would take headshots for people regardless of whether they could pay, Rosano added.
Grimaldi’s Latchis show — called PoloShoots, a nod to his company under the same name — opened July 2, the first anniversary of his death, and features 35 of his photos. People can view the work, by appointment only, through July 31.
Rosano mostly put together the show herself, with printing help from the Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro. She said it was always Grimaldi’s hope to have his own show one day, but he could never afford it, despite her offers to help offset the cost.
“I used to ask him about it, and he would say, ‘I don’t have the money to do my own show.’ Especially living in Brooklyn, it would cost an arm and a leg to rent a space and do the framing and matting,” she said.
Latchis Executive Director Jon Potter said the exhibit was the perfect first show to have coming out of the pandemic.
“I felt very strongly that this was something the Latchis should do, and I was deeply moved to have the opportunity,” he said in an email. “Throughout the pandemic, I have been focused on the role the Latchis can play in helping our community come to grips with and process the pandemic and its deep impacts. Presenting Marco’s photographs is one meaningful way we can do this.”
Moving forward, Rosano said she doesn’t plan to submit her son’s photos to any other galleries because of all the work needed to put on a show. (Besides, most of his pieces have already been claimed by family and friends.)
But having the Latchis show as a final sendoff for him felt “really good,” Rosano said, and helped her grieve her son.
“He was a really wonderful, creative human being since the day he was born,” she said, “and it feels like a real culmination of his life to me — both happy and sad at the same time.”
To book an appointment to view the PoloShoots show at the Latchis Art Gallery, contact Susan Rosano at firstname.lastname@example.org.